[-empyre-] critical / indifference and in/direct politics

Johannes Birringer Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk
Wed May 20 07:50:01 EST 2009

dear all:

May I take Laura's insistence (which is most welcome) on addresssing what might be meant by "critical motion practice" as an occasion to add some thoughts. ::

a) echoing: 

>> [Laura wrote]
If "critical" is the value term here - it's the motion practice we want to support and make in contrast, presumably, to the 'uncritical', then I don't think we can lay out any guidelines for what that practice looks like (techno/live; solo/collaborative), only perhaps, for how it works - how it uses performance / bodies / space / time and so forth.

My own “way into” technology perhaps largely follows that of Deleuze insofar as it begins from an interest in the inhuman perception of movement of the various kinds of camera eye or sensor; an interest in what different technologies can see that 'we' cannot and the capacity of these technologies, therefore, to remind us of the multiplicity of actualities that make up the present.
I guess my question is, how directly critical do you/we want to be? 

exactly.  I have already hinted at my discomfort with indifference and inertness. that might be long discussion, and do we have space/time?  i think not. what space/time is there for the philosophical and theoretical
exchanges of the kind we have here?  you may say, regrettably not enough.   i agree.  

at the same time, i can't afford it, to take such discourse into the studio, bring Deleuze/Guattari to rehearsal. It won't work. 
not with my Japanese guests, nor with the dancers, performers, musicians, programmers, and designers in my DAP-Lab.  It is not the language of rehearsal, examination, composition and production we speak. 
I also feel that we don't rehearse or make new work critically. Our dance (if that is what we call it for now) or motion practice, or performance, is not critical of dance. 

b)  that one is exhausted, i think, and quickly becoming redundant for many audiences (i.e. Konzepttanz, self-reflective performance art /media art). 

and yet, i agree with Xavier le Roy, we are a product of circumstances.

I wanted to ask a practical question first of all, to those of you who work in the studio or in production, or with workshops or residency / immediate local action situations as you, Laura, might have experienced them in Zagreb ( >workshop organised by the Shadow Casters on the theme of cultural memory and urban, immaterial heritage...>). how do you create "indifferently"?  make a guided tour, invent an architecture of interaction ? or make a work by perceiving a proliferation of miracles?

i know of few miracles in rehearsal, even though one can call accidents anything one likes. It might be helpful to remind ourselves of techniques we use in all art forms that depend on craft and specific disciplines and vocabularies and understandings or energies, initiations and reactions (we don't improvise indifferently, nor do we construct interactive compositions without precise knowledge or anticipation of the interfacial occurrences and parameters for occurrences to happen, in / with bodies or self and others and data streams we emit and receive or conjugate with).  Disappointments are frequent.

Caspersen, as Norah quoted her, speaks from within a context of a highly trained company with a particular technique, procedures, tools....... (I wouldn't call that critical at all  - Forsythe and his collaborating dancers'  choreographic world is not critical or deconstructive, in my understanding).  most artists develop these procedures over the course of years, or shift them and re-lease some, take on others. Deborah Hay has spoken about the release,  Francis Bacon would probably have said the opposite. 

In my current UKIYO lab [http://people.brunel.ac.uk/dap/ukiyo.html] , 
we are not critical at all.   Once  -much later-  upon the time that comes, when someone will call the work research or justify calling it such, then we will write the conceptual objects.  I would at the moment refrain from postulating to many daring concepts before the end of the day. 

e) i wanted to propose this week to apply a bit of historical reasoning, perahps, and look at different motion practices or art practices (mentioned here in the past weeks) and how they get positioned here.  
Laura has beautifully hinted at cites and their built /decomposed memories (Zagreb, Haussman's Paris, Berlin, New York, Brasilia,  Rio de Janeiro, Hiroshima)

I also certainly see little room at the moment -- in my work -- for claiming a politics of rehearsal, or sense of criticality (re: activism or presumed interventionism, as Laura mentions), or any such futile gestures. 

we try to gain an understanding of how we can move together with our japanese partners, whose language we do not speak yet and whose cultural perceptions and orientations, movement practices, cooking habits, dreams, imaginaries, micropopular tendencies, technological obsessions, we may not yet be able to fathom.  Our work itle is "Ukiyo"  [moveable world]

we started with some simple techniques,  reading some haikus,
then moving through them, singing them, listening to them, responding to one another and to the projections

all the while,  Gekitora is making animated Avatar choreographies in Second Life, and
our performers, in real space, are currently learning some new moves from the avatars.

some of the movements are difficult, if not impossible, certainly not inadequate, just challenging.

Now i want to end, for now,  with a brief mention of our guest artist, Elegand Child,  a terrific movement artist from Japan who came to us via Brasil and a meeting in Dresden (where she danced "Movement A" in 2007:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocEO7w7uQkI), and after some years of nursing injuries to her body.

Elegant Child performed a 25 minute performance in our studio, the other night,  (with Tom Waits'  "Bone Machine")  which she constructed and composed out of involuntary movements happening across/traversersing  12 areas of her body, and she told us that she used involuntary movement/motions of her body-  which she considers healing and necessary for healing of injuries -  as an important choreographic source or tool. 

 If I understand this paradox correctly, she deploys/explores controlled/incontrollable involuntary movement to dance and develop particular rhyhthms and tempi which I associate with repetitions and variations (and what African dancers might call the return beat) - and thus with the opposite of oblivion, namely with memory and deep listening. 

This is what I find critically unsupportable, perhaps, in the notion of (what Stelarc calls) "assemblages" or what was refered to as indifference in the sense in which "locomotion" of an intelligently designed robot or virtual avatar might be. If my body were extended into remote spaces and into mixed realities, now could I not be partial and perturbed by "violent propulsions across time zones".  I am disturbed by propulsions. 

and, to take up Sally Jane:  "Laban's notation of movement was developed in a context favouring the liberation of bodies , and became the model for large Nazi demonstrations before regaining, in the anti-establishment context of performance art, a new subversive virginity."  

that last one, i am not sure about. 

So I am not sure how we are critical before we create and  define our values or discuss values, unless sof course we want to motion towards  motion as something abstractly philosophical. 
Not sure evolutionary biology is helpful here either, now that it is is frequenly heralded as  influential for a more precise understanding of intelligent design /understanding by bulding, and thus for the current fashionableness of "embodiment" for theories in ubiquitous computing, business and management, and the psychology of human memory, etc. 

It is impossible now to complete these thoughts. i really wanted to tell you about the way my back hurts from the avatar choreography I am learning. I am highly motivated to dance like this creature in Second Life,
especially since I partly shudder at second lives and such virtual playgrounds.   Yet, i had also glimpsed in our laughter something that Sondheim noted:

>>The bvh files are complex and avatars perform, most often at high-speed,
with sudden jumps and motions that involve them intersecting with them-
selves. The motions appeared convulsive and sometimes sexualized.>>

In the next few days I might try to tell you you about my shuddering at the countless hours spent programming interfaces and reheasring them for interactive movement performances with projective worlds and wearable spaces, much wasted time. My experience is the opposite of what Laura carefully implies/asks:   ......

>>Is it that working with very new technology is somehow self-justifying to the extent that such practices involve a generous form of public experiment - showing what the body can do in connection with these various new softwares, sensors and so forth>>

Since most interactive performance art I now find problematic and dysfunctional (artistically, ethically), i would be hard pressed to answer this positively.  
It has not been a generous form of public experiment, i fear.

Johannes Birringer



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